Dir: Ken Kwapis. US.2005. 119mins.

Based on a wildly popular young-adult novel about fourteen girlfriends and the pair of magical blue jeans they share over the summer,The Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants is a coming-of-age dramatailor-made for fans of the books, which with its sequels has sold 3.5m-pluscopies in the US. Appeal should also extend beyond them into older pre-teensand young teens, who have previously been unaware of the source material.

Obviously a harder sell inoverseas territories where the source material is unknown, it should stillgenerate unusually strong word of mouth - and possible repeat viewing - thanksto four strong lead performances and a sometimes funny, sometimes teary-eyed,but always realistic, view of adolescence. Ancillary markets look especiallyhot.

Catering almost exclusivelyto young female viewers -fewer boys cross the gender line when it comes tochoosing a movie to see - the tween girl genre, has scored some major hits overthe past few years, most notably Freaky Friday ($110m worldwide) and ThePrincess Diaries ($108m).

Unlike those fantasypremises, however, The Sisterhood is reality-based - save for thetitular pants that somehow fit four such completely different body types.

Sisterhood many not equalthese but has still had a good opening in the US, taking $10.2m from 2,583screens over the weekend.

Despite diversepersonalities, 16-year old Tibby (Tamblyn, from TV's Joan of Arcadia),Bridget (Lively, in a dynamic screen debut), Carmen (Ferrera, from Real WomenHave Curves) and Lena (Bledel, of The Gilmore Girls) have been bestfriends since childhood. This summer marks the first time the four will beseparated and, to help keep themselves connected, they agree to rotate a pairof thrift store blue jeans that inexplicably fits each girl, despite their verydifferent body shapes. Each will keep the pants for a week before mailing themon to the next girl.

The foursome is spreadacross three countries. Stunning to look at and almost aggressively confident,Bridget is attending football camp in Mexico. Carmen, extroverted and bubbly,but self-conscious about her weight, is looking forward to spending the summerwith her father, whom she hasn't seen much since her parents' divorce. Shy,self-conscious Lena is going to Greece, where her grandparents live, while thepunkish, cynical Tibby is living at home and taking a boring job at a Discount'Super Store' while continuing work on her video'suckumentary' about all the losers in her hometown.

Not unexpectedly, charactersexperience growing pains and life lessons are learned. Bridget realises she hasnever dealt with her grief over her mother's death; Tibby's protective armouris pierced by a wise-beyond-her-years 12-year old girl; a romance gives Lenaconfidence and a sense of herself; while Carmen must accept the fact that herfather is starting a new family.

The four stories arecontinually intercut, with some scenes lasting just a minute or two yet neverfeeling rushed. Although viewers may identify more with one character thananother, all the stories are given equal weight. Certain plot developments (thesuicide of one character's mother, the loss of a girl's virginity) arepresented discreetly enough that younger audience members can digest only whatthey are comfortable with, while older audiences will pick up on the nuancesand respond appropriately for their ages.

While all four leadactresses are good, special mention must be made of both newcomer Lively, whogives a supremely convincing - and confident - performance as Bridget, andJenna Boyd as the 12-year old who teaches Tibby to embrace life. Boyd wasequally impressive a couple of years back in Ron Howard's dark Western, TheMissing.

A female director might haveseemed the more obvious choice for a film about four adolescent girls, but KenKwapis proves that gender is irrelevant. His empathy and feel for his youngcharacters are in no way limited by his gender and he handles both the materialand his young cast in a completely relaxed and believable fashion.

Production companies
Alcon Entertainment
Di Novi Pictures

US distribution
Warner Brothers

Executive producers
Leslie Morgenstein
Alison Greenspan
Kira Davis

Debra Martin Chase
Denise Di Novi
Broderick Johnson
Andrew A Kosove

Delia Ephron
Elizabeth Chandler
from a novel by Ann Brashares

John Bailey

Production design
Gae Buckley

Kathryn Himoff

Cliff Eidelman

Main cast
Amber Tamblyn
America Ferrera
Blake Lively
Alexis Bledel
Jenna Boyd